Five life skills for backcountry enjoyment

As outdoor enthusiasts spend more and more time in our backcountry, a handful of skills become more and more essential. All of these skills are easy to learn and add considerably to the overall enjoyment of spending time out-of-doors. The key word here is enjoyment. In order to enjoy ourselves, we must be comfortable with ourselves and our surroundings. This is especially true in the backcountry. So let’s talk about life skills that, when mastered, will lead to heightened enjoyment as we find ourselves off the beaten path.

Understanding basic first-aid is paramount. This life skill is needed whether you enter the backcountry or not. If you haven’t taken both a first-aid class and a CPR class lately, what are you waiting for? Accidents happen, be prepared. The American Red Cross offers both classes all the time.

Backcountry travel requires a basic understanding of how to navigate. Whether you prefer to use a map with a compass or with a GPS, learn how to find your way around. Getting lost is bad. Fear of getting lost can be worse. Classes for map reading, compass use and GPS use are readily available in most communities. Check local libraries, community colleges or orienteering clubs. On-line classes are readily available as well.

How are you at tying knots? This too is an easily acquired skill. Nothing is cooler than needing to use a rope and actually knowing how to use it. Whether you are tying off a tent stake or repelling over a cliff, being able to use the right knot at the right time is important. Learn how to tie a bowline, sheet bend, rolling hitch and timber hitch, to name a few. Many books and websites are available with pictures and instructions.

To start a fire, only two things are needed—heat and fuel. Whenever you visit the backcountry, always be sure to carry both heat and fuel. Heat is easiest to carry in the form of waterproof matches or a weather proof lighter. Fuel is tougher to carry although starter fuel such as lint and mineral oil shouldn’t be too difficult to carry. Nature provides an abundance of fuel if you know what you’re looking for. Whether rubbing sticks together (yuck) or using waterproof matches (yea), be sure you know how to start a fire before you start your journey. There are many ways to start a fire and you should find at least three of them that work for you. You can find lots on-line regarding this life skill.

The most enjoyable way to experience our backcountry is the “low impact” way. You’ve most likely heard the phrase “leave only footprints, take only pictures.” If we take good care of our wilderness areas, not only will we be able to enjoy them our entire lives but our descendants will have the opportunity to enjoy them too. There are many organizations actively educating outdoor enthusiasts as to the best way to “low impact” recreate. Two very popular organizations are Tread Lightly! and Leave No Trace.

Knowing these five life skills will provide you with the confidence to fully enjoy your time in the backcountry. Once you’ve mastered these skills be sure to pass them on to your friends and family.

Use this information and you’ll Get It Right The First Time. Get Outdoors!

Langkawi gets world class scuba and snorkel

The honeymoon paradise island of Langkawi in Malaysia is recognized by travel insiders as one of the world"s great nature destinations with million year old rainforest, spectacular ancient mountains, and stunning wildlife including hornbills, monitor lizards, monkeys and rare species including the colugo.

The island boasts a modern cable car, a leading international Regatta, a top world bicycle race and a brand new Four Seasons resort that seems certain to become Asia's premiere honeymoon spot.

The exciting news is that Langkawi visitors have just gained access to the nearby Tarutao National park in Thailand which looks like the paradise used for those dreamy Bounty Bar commercials with azure seas, white sand beaches and more. Tarutao is normally only accessible by small boats from Satun Island for six months each year, but a new ferry service from Langkawi will make this marine paradise available to Langkawi visitors year round.

The islands of Ko Lipe, Ko Adang, Ko Tarutao and 50 more that comprise the Tarutao National park in Thailand are know to divers around the world as a dream destination that is difficult to access. They offer kilometers of colorful coral, white powder sand beaches, dozens of world class scuba diving sites and high concentrations of amazing underwater life including dolphins, whale sharks, manta, migrating whales, turtles and more.

This fabulous world class marine playground is now available year round to visitors to Langkawi due to a new ferry service opening 8 June 2005. The ferry service has been made possible through the cooperation of the Thai and Malaysian governments and the opening of a Thai Consulate in Langkawi last month.

Daytrips to the national park from Langkawi will operate three days a week and more frequently during peak season. The daytrips include the one-hour ferry trip, island hopping by speedboat, snorkel gear and a buffet lunch with refreshments.

Special trips include scuba diving trips with 2 dives, game fishing trips (catch & return), and a guided ecotour to explore the island"s corals and forests with a trained naturalist.

Beach camping parks

Beaches offer joy to every one irrespective of color, creed, or social status. Ever since man learned the art of expressing joy, ocean and beaches have been his theme, whether the medium is a poem, painting, photograph, song or video. The beauty of a sunrise or sun set at the beach is beyond description.

Beach camping is one of the least expensive ways of enjoying weekends or other holidays. One can experience long boardwalks and beach fun like volleyball, swimming, fishing, sailing, wind surfing, jet skiing, water skiing, boating and much more.

As in any activity, beach campers need to take essential camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, drinking water, food, cooler, camp stoves, utensils, can opener, appropriate clothes, charcoal chimney, cleaning items, first aid kit, binoculars, bug spray, camera, candles, cell phone, compass, flashlight, GPS, kites, pen and paper and water filters.

Beach camping requires additional equipment such as sunburn lotion, folding aluminum furniture, beach chairs and tables, shade tents, beach wear, beach bags, and beach umbrellas.

With kids there is always a probability for accidents, particularly on beaches. Though all beach camp sites have coast guard services available, it is important for the camper to carry a first aid kit. Whether it is a ready-made unit or put together for the occasion, the kit should include these items: personal medication, bandages, medical tape, sterile gauze, elastic wrap, antibiotics, antiseptic cream, burn ointment, hydrogen peroxide, scissors, tweezers, eye wash and sanitary napkins.

With proper planning and adequate equipment, beach camping can be a captivating human experience!

Responsible recreation in the backcountry

Having a good time is pretty high on everyone’s to do list, especially when surrounded by awesome views and super-awesome friends. We hike, bike, climb, camp, raft, fish, hunt, four-wheel, sleep and eat – among other things – in the backcountry. If not done properly, that’s a lot of wear and tear on our natural resources. Responsible recreation ensures future outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors as you have. Without a recreation code of ethics, our backcountry would become a thing of the past. Here are some universally agreed upon keys for having a good time – the right way.

-Take only pictures, leave only footprints. If you carry it in, carry it out. This will eliminate litter.

-Protect water sources from contamination. Use bio-degradable soap, or try hot water soap-less dishwashing, bathing and clothes washing. When using soap (even bio-degradable) and toothpaste, dispose of the wastewater at least 100 feet away from natural water sources, well or faucet water sources.

-Be a good neighbor - control your noise and your pets. Always keep your dog on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and away from public swimming areas. Barking and not cleaning up after pets leads to many complaints from other outdoor enthusiasts. Do not leave pets unattended.

-Be respectful of the natural environment – keep the trees and shrubs alive and growing.

Nails and wires should not be used on trees because they can cause serious damage to trees. Burn damage will permanently scar or kill a tree.

-When hiking or biking, stay on designated trails. This keeps damage to vegetation and erosion in one place.

-Before leaving your campsite, clean your fire pit and your campsite. Make it as clean as you would want it if you were arriving that day. The next user will appreciate it.

Leave-No-Trace, www. lnt. org, offers the following Principles for Outdoor Ethics: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife and Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

Here is the Tread Lightly!, www. treadlightly. org, pledge: Travel and recreate with minimum impact, Respect the environment and the rights of others, Educate yourself – plan and prepare before you go, Allow for future use of the outdoors – leave it better than you found it and Discover the rewards of responsible recreation.

Responsible recreation means having the common sense and the courtesy to enjoy the backcountry without spoiling someone else’s experience. Most outdoor enthusiasts understand this very well and spend a good deal of their time restoring, enhancing and conserving our backcountry. Have a good time when you’re outdoors and share these keys with your friends.

Use this information and you’ll Get It Right The First Time. Get Outdoors!

External frame vs. internal frame backpacks

: Long and frequent has been the debate amongst hikers and campers regarding the use of internal or external frame backpacks. Many old timers insist that external frame packs are the way to go, mainly due to years of utilizing externals, and reluctance (like all of us), to change. The younger generation tends to gravitate toward the trendy internal frame packs. It seems that the new wave of hikers are as much concerned with form as they are with function. In my experience, having owned and used both types of backpacks, I have compiled some recommendations based on experiences on (and off) the trail. External Frame Backpacks Pros-- Generally less expensive, more compartments, pack doesn't rest directly on back, increasing ventilation. Cons-- Usually more bulky than internal frame packs, can impede hiking, and storing in tent. Internal Frame Backpacks Pros-- More streamline, more compact. Cons--Can be expensive, few compartments, pack rest against the back. In closing, in a normal hiking environment, (on trail), I clearly prefer an external frame pack. I find them more comfortable, affordable, and much easier to organize pack items. Internal frame packs make it difficult to retrieve items, as most items are stored in the same compartment. Internal frame packs do have their place, generally in off-trail adventures. External frame packs tend to get snagged on branches and such easily when off-trail. Isn't it time to plan your next hike? What are you waiting for?

What were they thinking - adventure in a colorado wilderness with three 12 year olds

I still can’t believe it. It’s been 40 or so years since that fateful summer. My buddies Steve and Larry and I were around 12 years of age when we were dropped off early in the day on a rainy, muddy little trail of a road off Highway 135 north of Gunnison, Colorado up toward Kebler Pass.

The mission: follow trails up Pass Creek through the West Elk Wilderness Area, cross Swampy and Castle Passes at 11,086 feet, finally coming out on the other side following Little Robinson Creek down arriving at Coal Creek just up from the Paonia Reservior and Anthracite Creek.

I marvel and wonder to this day, what were those boy’s parents thinking? What would prompt them to turn 3 twelve year olds loose for a journey through the West Elk Wilderness? We were on the trail way back in the backcountry of Colorado for 3 days and nights, carrying and fixing meals, setting up camps, fishing, chopping wood and worrying about bears and being lost. I and people I know with children that age now are not sure we would even consider dropping them off on a wilderness trail, seeing them 3 days later in survivable condition at the other end.

Over the years I’ve questioned family and friends and the answer usually comes back - it’s a different world today than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Kids are different. At that age, we were outside all the time, leaving the house in the morning and only coming in when we were hungry or it was bedtime. On our bikes, we explored the entire valley, the river bottom on the North Fork of the Gunnixon, nearby creeks, hills and draws around Paonia, Colorado, day after day. Our parents seldom had a clear idea where we were. It was a different world absent fear of kidnappings, only the beginnings of awareness of the dangers of toys, only occasional accounts of kids dying in accidents and so on. A more naive world perhaps, with less media hype of every single incident.

Of course, Steve was a seasoned backpacker (at age 12?), experienced in navigating trails, campsites and so on. The parents apparently figured we would be fine. Or they worried themselves sick and just never told us.

The three day journey started off on the right foot. Both feet in fact were soaked as were the pants up to above the knees since the trail led through tall grass drenched by steady rain turning the trail to muck. A wet slog up Pass Creek headed for Swampy Pass, and the first night’s camp we huddled in tents in the fog and rain in a grassy meadow along the creek.

The second day dawned sunny, warming the scene, drying sleeping bags and tent. Pants and shoes dried out eventually as we wore them over Swampy Pass and Castle Pass. The second night’s camp afforded a comforting campfire, and order was restored. Some order was restored anyway. During the night an alarming snuffling noise outside the tents awakened us. Panic ensued. Racing around in the dark, and restoking the campfire, nothing was found indicating a bear anywhere. Hoof marks suggested deer might have been grazing through, but imagination sure whips up mighty frights in the dark.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny, despite the night’s fright. The Beckwith Peaks shined to the north, meadows were filled with flowers, and the fishing...., was unbelievable. Hammering it out for miles back into remote creeks, Colorado fishing provides something of legends. That 3rd day at the headwaters of Little Robinson Creek, we fished our way downstream. Almost every cast was a strike. Our limits were quickly filled on the upper reaches of that pristine stream.

Finding a good campsite along Little Robinson Creek we set up the last nights camp and torched the campfire for dinner. To our delight we discovered a valuable trait of a seasoned back-pack companion, even at 12 years of age. He cooked fresh trout in foil over a campfire to perfection. A memorable taste treat that would stick with us forever.

That night sleep came early and deep, except for constant shifting to find a “softer spot” after two nights on the ground. Exhaustion from the haul, and the lack of sleep the nights before overrode concerns about bears or other wild critters. Another sunny morning back in the West Elk Wilderness greeted a refreshed group of guys, with the realization that those nightime anxieties were unfounded paranoias tormenting the mind.

The last leg of the journey involved several miles following Little Robinson Creek working our way out of the wilderness. The rendezvous point with our parents was where Robinson Creek and Willow Creek turned into Coal Creek at an old abandoned ranch house. We started the morning trek with enthusiasm - a beautiful day, wonderful view of the Beckwith Mountains to the north of us, sparkling Little Robinson Creek at our side, and a good nights sleep.

The delight of that trek through West Elk Wilderness will always have the painful tinge of the final miles of the journey. Not a major disaster, but the long, hot, dusty trudge down that last leg of the trail. The weariness, legs in pain, feet bruised and aching, and the seemingly unending trudge stick with me. The training I continue on into my 50’s is framed in terms of preventing the pain of that last leg of the journey - assuring better gear, quality boots, and the drive to train for such distances.

Now days we would also envision great base-camp accommodations in nearby Gunnison or Crested Butte and found in the Colorado Wilderness Tours site at www. montanaadventure. com/out/state/us-co. html. And again I’ve got to wonder what our parents were thinking when setting us loose on that 30 mile trek through the wilderness, I with beat up tennis shoes, and a backpack that was a bag with shoulder straps. It was a much different world. Gotta love it!

Some essential camping supplies for your camping adventures

There are certain supplies that every family should have when camping. Ensuring you have the basic supplies to have fun and stay safe will enhance your camping experience. So do not pack on the fly. Instead, make sure you plan well and make lists so nothing is forgotten. Make lists and check off items as you pack. But also pack as lightly as possible. Remember that camping is a temporary state and that you will not need a lot of different clothing and only enough food and water to sustain you and your family during your trip.

Always be sure you have enough food and water so you and your family are properly nourished and hydrated. However, choose items that are lightweight, easy to cook and easy to clean up. Canned goods and lightweight items such as soups, canned meats, jerky, and cereals are perfect.

Take campfire wood with you unless you plan to purchase wood on the way to your camping area or at the campground. Also take newspaper and small twigs to make starting your fire easy. A small hatchet can be handy too.

Dress appropriately for the season but also prepare for unexpected weather changes. Summer clothing should include light colored items and good hiking boots. In winter weather, make sure to dress in layers for maximum warmth. Always have spare clothes available in case clothing gets wet or there is a shift in climate. Remember that even in summer it can get cold at night.

For day trips where you will leave your camp area, use a backpack to bring essential supplies. Maps and a compass are essential supplies to have. Make sure to research the area where you will be camping so you are familiar with where there are main roads and emergency facilities. Waterproof matches will help start a fire even in rainy conditions. A flashlight will provide light for night time. Make sure to use a heavy duty model that is waterproof. Extra batteries are also advised.

Survival kits are necessary in case of emergency. These are available pre made at outdoor sporting good stores but you can also gather supplies individually. Rope is a common element of these supplies. Also, food items for emergency survival are usually included. A whistle in case you are stuck or trapped will help you call for help without expending a lot of energy. A multi - use knife is a compact item that provides many essential tools including a saw and can opener. Shelter equipment such as blankets and tarps can help you stay warm and protected while awaiting assistance. Although many wilderness areas will not have reception, it may be possible for a cellular phone to reach a nearby emergency station. It is advisable to carry one just in case you will be able to get reception and call for help.

First aid kits are also essential camping supplies. These are readily available pre made in pharmacies and sporting good stores. Ensure they have materials to aid in bandaging wounds and treating illness. They should include insect repellant and sunscreen to protect against sunburn and pests. Bandages and antibiotic ointment will help in mending scrapes and cuts. Aspirin and non aspirin pain medication should be included. Iodine tablets will help if a person is dehydrated.

Supplies that will keep your family safe and nourished in case of emergency are essential elements when camping. But do not forget to have some fun. Bring games, fishing poles and books to spend some time. Do not forget binoculars for watching wildlife and the camera for memorializing your experience. Be organized and make a list of all supplies needed before embarking on your trip to ensure the most fun and safest camping trip possible.

Other items to pack include: folding chairs; trash bags; pre-moistened wipes (especially handy if your camping area does not have hand-washing facilities in the bathroom area); a dishpan, dish soap, dish cloths, and dish towels for cleaning dishes; paper towels; clothespins to hang swimsuits and towels on the rope you’ve also packed; and pot holders to handle hot food.

What to consider when choosing a hiking trail

Are you interested in going on a hiking adventure? Whether that hiking adventure will last for a few hours or a whole weekend, you will need to choose a hiking trail. When it comes to choosing a hiking trail, you need to remember that you have a number of different options. No matter where in the United States you are located, you should have a number of hiking trails located a close distance away from your home.

Since you should have a number of different choices, when looking for a hiking trail to hike, you may be wondering how you can go about finding the "perfect," hiking trail to hike. To help you choose the best hiking trail, there are a number of important factors that you may want to think about taking into consideration. A few of those factors are briefly outlined below for you.

One of the many factors that you will want to take into consideration is the difficulty of the hiking trail in question. You will find that hiking trails come in a number of different formats, particularly with difficulty levels. In fact, you may find that multiple parks have numerous hiking trails to choose from. Instead of choosing a hiking trail based on the beauty of the surroundings, you will want to examine difficulty. If this is your first time going on a hiking adventure, it may be best if you choose a trial that is designed for beginners or at least those at an intermediate level.

In conjunction with the difficultly of a trail, your safety is also something that should be take into consideration. You will want to make sure that you are on a hiking trial that is well maintained and well cared for. While it can be difficult to assess a hiking trail without visiting it, it is possible to do. If you know of anyone who has been hiking recently, you may want to ask them which hiking trial they took and their views on their experience, namely the condition of the hiking trail in question. You may also be able to use the internet, namely a standard internet search, to find popular hiking trails being discussed online.

Another factor that you may want to take into consideration, when looking for a hiking trail, is security. Is the hiking trial or hiking park in question closely monitored by staff, namely security guards? In today's society, you can never be too careful, especially when in surroundings that are unfamiliar to you. Hiking trails or parks that have security guards are not only ideal in case you run into a problem, like with a stranger with poor intentions, but they are also great in the event of a hiking accident. Hiking trails or hiking parks with experienced staff members are less likely to have extreme or deadly hiking accidents.

As it was previously mentioned, hiking adventures can last for a few hours or be long as a whole weekend. If you are also interested in turning your hiking adventure into a camping one, you will need to find a hiking trial or at least a hiking park that has overnight accommodations. In most cases, you will find that these accommodations include an onsite campground. If you are only interested in hiking for the day, the overnight accommodations of the hiking trail or hiking park in question may not be a big concern of yours.

Price is another factor that you may want to take into consideration, when choosing a hiking trail to hike. In the United States, you will find that most hiking trails or parks are not free to visit. In all honesty, the fee that you are charged will all depend on the trail or park in question. Most of the time, you will find that the cost of hiking is affordable, but it is still something that you may want to take into consideration, especially if you are on a budget.

The above mentioned factors are just a few of the many factors that you may want to take into consideration, when looking for a hiking trail or a hiking part to visit. By keeping the above mentioned factors in mind, you will likely find that your next hiking adventure will be a memorable one.

How to see the best of alaska s nature mountains glaciers close to anchorage - prince william sound

: By Robin Irving & Tim Warren Looking for just one more adventure to round out your Alaska Vacation? Prince William Sound is a great addition to an Alaska vacation package that will likely be the highlight of your Alaska Vacation. Incredible marine life, stunning mountain vistas, glaciers and three port cities that offer an array of visitor services, make this an attractive add on. And the Alaska Marine Highway has new and improved ferry service to and from the port cities of Whittier, Cordova and Valdez so trip planning just became easier, faster and more affordable. Alaska is so large and so diverse that it is often difficult to see it all in one trip. But a trip through Prince William Sound, with a stop-over in each of the three communities will allow you to experience much of what makes Alaska special. And with the Alaska Marine Highway it's possible to make a loop so as not to repeat any part of your trip, always seeing something new and different. In less than an hour, you can drive south from Anchorage to the port of Whittier. Whittier, an eclectic relic of a WWII army base is the gateway city of western Prince William Sound. Numerous charter operators large and small and expedition companies leading trips into the Sound can be found in Whittier. Small shops line the harbor offering food and gifts for visitors. Alaska Marine Highway offers 30% off New High Speed Ferry There is also a terminal office for the state's Marine Highway system in Whittier. With its new high speed ferry, the M/V Chenega it is now possible to take a half day cruise across the Sound from Whittier to Cordova. This is called the Marine Highway because you can take your car (or your rental car) on board (highly recommended). And during the summer of 2006, the state is offering some great specials with 30% off all sailings to and from the port of Cordova. The Chenega is a brand new ship offering full amenities. Once on board you'll feel like you are on a luxury cruise ship with beautiful local art hanging on the walls and its tasteful nautical dйcor. The state ferry also has National Forest Interpreters on board to provide a wealth of information on the marine and terrestrial environments of Prince William Sound. Besides the fantastic scenery, you can often see humpback and killer or orca whales, sea lions, sea otters, seals and other marine mammals. Look for puffins, arctic terns and other marine birds as well. For ferry schedule, lodging nature and glacier observation options in the Prince Williams sound visit: www. alaskarafters. com. Alaska Adventure Travel Cordova is a jumping off point for some incredible adventure. You will definitely want to spend a couple of days here, before moving on to the next port city. A small fishing port Cordova is quaint, picturesque, and so Alaskan. There are National Forest Trails with giant rainforest trees, road accessible glaciers, sea otters and other marine life. It is a friendly town too. There are outfitters like the experts at Alaska River Expeditions offering everything from river rafting and sea kayaking to glacier trekking, ice climbing and mountain biking. Choices for lodging vary from a standard hotel or motel with ocean views, to those with great Alaskan appeal. An old cannery is the site for a new adventure lodge; there are nautical inns and wonderful B&B's. Although there are no 5 star luxury resorts, most lodging choices offer great hospitality and all amenities as well as charm not found in large hotels. There are also several great restaurants offering local cuisine including the famed Copper River Salmon, Mexican, Italian, and Chinese entrees. Cordova, Alaska - the "Little Switzerland" of Alaska From Cordova, you can board the "Marine Highway" once again for the Port of Valdez. This is the terminal city for the Alaska Pipeline. You can see tankers loading and view the pipeline. It has cruise ships that dock so there are several shops that cater to visitors. Valdez is often referred to as "little Switzerland" because of the tall mountains surrounding the city. You can complete your loop by driving north on the Richardson Highway. Waterfalls, glaciers and tall mountains surround you on your drive north through Thompson Pass. As you drive over the mountains to the other side, you will leave the coastal influence and enter another world. The evergreen forests give way to mixed deciduous forests with more birches and aspens, just two hours north of Valdez. The next bigger community north of Valdez is Glennallen. Here you will turn west onto the Glenn Highway. This winding highway takes you through the northern edge of the Chugach Mountains, eventually giving way to the farmland of the Mat-Su Valley. Picturesque farms dot the countryside before entering the more urban areas. Then its south onto the Parks Highway back to Anchorage, completing a great 3-7 day add-on loop for your Alaska vacation.

Tents

: Tents are used for any occasion and event. You can look tent as an open-air shaded pavilion, or a climate controlled banquet hall, practically overnight. It can be used to complete any of your goals regarding outdoor events. Tents are used for events, meetings, weddings, parties, and promotions. Tents are not only a shelter but provide elaborate and elegant environment. There are color graphics showing samples of the outdoor canopies, poly tarps, pipes, fittings, and tent accessories. Tents are made from waterproof, UVI resistant fabrics. You can see tents and canopy in different colors including red, white, blue green, red, yellow and more. The color range of tents should be soothing, as it fit to your party time, and you can use tent accessories and lighting for any timing. As if your party in noon it will require different type of color match, generally tents in light shade are best for any party in noon when sun is overhead. However tents for evening party should be semi dark colors that match the best when sun sets in the sky. There are large lines of colored sunscreen tarps, as well as fire retardant tarps. They come in different sizes and color choices. You can see frame tents that are extremely flexible, especially in allowing interior modification to fit the function. Lighting, sound systems, air conditioning and wall hangings can be suspended from the structure.

Multipurpose knives and other essentials for a fun safe and cheap vacation

Life's like a MasterCard commercial and so is camping. This means everything costs something but memories made are priceless. Memories can be made in a cost effective manner. Maximizing the fun and minimize the money spent is possible if you know some ways to reduce costs. The most effective way of having a memorable camping vacation is to create a budget and follow these tips and tricks for camping efficiently. The key is to have some key pieces of equipment that can be used in a variety of ways and that will last a long-time. This will allow you to enjoy the benefits of the equipment without worrying about the long-term effects of the cost.

It is frustrating trying to put together a quality set of camping supplies on a limited amount of money but it is very possible. First off, develop a list of equipment priorities. The camp site location and the fuel to get there is a primary necessity. Food and water to last for the length of your stay would come next. Other important tools to include in your camping equipment list are a long-lasting flashlight or lantern, multi-purpose knife, extra batteries, a first-aid kit and matches to build a campfire. Camping supplies such as tents, sleeping bags, and chairs will make camping comfortable and will keep you warm and dry. The secondary list of camping items would include hobby tools and equipment like those for boating, cycling, or fishing.

Camp Site Location and Getting There

Campground prices usually weigh in a $12 to $25 per night. Call the campground ahead of time to determine prices at your local state or national parks. Also, consider whether the campground you are going to has running water, bathroom and shower facilities, charcoal grills and trash disposal areas. Depending on whether the grounds have these you may need to add or take away items from your camping list. Additionally, estimate gas money ahead of time to ensure you are prepared.

Food and Water

Include in your camping list the coolers, water jugs, paper or plastic plates, and cups you may need while camping. Investing in reusable camping dishes is a benefit for families that camp often and saves on the environment as well. Purchase enough food to last the course of your camping vacation and be smart about buying non-perishable foods wherever possible. About $200 should be allotted for food and gas. This should cover your needs for about a 2-3 day trip, depending on how many people you are feeding and how far you plan to travel.

Camping Tools and Equipment

There are several items that are camping essentials. A multi-purpose tool or knife is essential for safe and effective camping. A multi-purpose survival knife will come in handy for cutting string or twine to hold down tents or hang tarps during rainy weather. It can also be used for opening canned food, gutting fish, and fixing other camping equipment should it break. There are a number of brands and styles of survival knives available. Find a good, quality one and keep it with your camping equipment at all times.

Quality lights are also important camping equipment. The most cost effective light for camping is a LED flashlight or LED lantern. They last longer than the usual fluorescent or incandescent bulb and are more resistant to breaking. This is very important if you are camping deep in the forest where it will get darker quicker or if you will be hiking to your destination. Having a long-lasting, dependable LED lantern or flashlight will give families extra reassurance of safety. LED lighting products are sometimes more expensive than regular camping lights but their longevity and bright light make them a smart investment.

Altogether, it is estimated that the cost of camping will be approximately $300-$400, making camping and spending time in nature a relatively inexpensive alternative vacation. Planning out your camping vacation: a quality, well-stocked campsite, food and water, tents and sleeping bags, survival knife, and long-lasting flashlights will help you spend a budget wisely and even save money in the long-term. This means more memories that last a lifetime.

~Ben Anton, 2007

Michigan outdoors - hidden places

: In Michigan, being outdoors can mean relaxing on a sandy beach or getting lost in the wilderness. One of the hidden places described below will let you do both. Here are three places that you haven't seen in magazine articles and guide books. Michigan Outdoors - Rivers You can float the Manistee River from Baxter Bridge (the next crossing down from Hwy 131) north of Cadillac, all day without seeing a house or a road. The majority of the route is in the Manistee National Forest, where you can camp without permits. The Manistee isn't a river full of exciting rapids (at least not on this stretch). It is a river for relaxing. A few years back, we used to park where Road 17 crosses the river, and hike upstream with a small day pack loaded with snacks, water, a saw, hatchet, and rope. By early afternoon we would build a raft of dead trees cut to length. We spent the following hours floating back to the car. We called it Tom Sawyer Day, and on six of these trips I have never passed another canoe or boat on the river. Michigan Outdoors - Beaches Probably you have heard of or been to the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore (and the dunes), and the other sandy spots along the east side of Lake Michigan. They are beautiful, and I highly recommend them, but what if you want a beach to yourself? Head north, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. From Highway 2, a couple miles east of Rapid River, turn south on County road 513. Follow it until it splits, and take the road to Wilsey Bay. Where the road first comes to the water, it is a public access point. Leave your car here and walk a mile to the end of the road, and then along the rocky beach past the last house (stay below the high-water mark and it is legal to walk past private property). Just past the house you enter the Hiawatha National Forest for the next seven miles of beach. The last time I camped out there, I never saw a person in two days. One morning I followed fresh black bear tracks along the sandy beach, and later explored the ruins of an old cabin. There are no roads into this area, and ATV's are not permitted. If you want forested wilderness, just walk away from the beach - and watch for wild blueberries in the forest clearings if it is August or September. Michigan Outdoors - Really Hidden You'll want a topographical map for this one. In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, north of Ishpeming, there is some wild and rough country. Driving out of Ishpeming, you'll wind through rocky lakes and woods. An hour north, on a sandy road, you'll come to a river with two-hundred foot high cliffs on the other side. I promised friends not to get more specific than this, so you'll have to work a bit to find it. Continue a bit further, until the road gets too rough or the puddles too deep. Park the car and find a log to cross the small river on, then head uphill (you may need your hands to go up the wooded hillside). Beyond and on top of those cliffs and hills there are two lakes, just a thirty minute walk away, surrounded by a rocky wilderness, and with no trail going to them. My brother had a trout on the line in ten seconds the first time I took him there. Good luck!

A mental wilderness survival kit

: A survival kit should be carried by anyone who goes deep into the wilderness. What should be in it? Matches, a blade of some sort, and first aid supplies are among the usual recommendations. When you read the true stories of survival, though, you start to see that it is what's in a persons head that often determines if they survive or not. What, then, should be in this mental survival kit? A Survival Kit In Your Mind 1. Willingness to learn. Even those who know nothing about survival until lost in the wilderness can still learn as they go - if they are willing to. If you're cold, watch that squirrel dive under a pile of leaves, and try that to stay warm (it works). Notice what's working and what isn't, and keep trying new things. 2. Willingness to do what's necessary. This is one of the most important items in your mental survival kit. Hey, they can eat hissing cockroaches just for the chance to win some money on "Fear Factor," so you can do it to save your life, right? Spoon with your buddy to stay warm, break open logs to find grubs to eat - do whatever it takes. 3. Positive attitude. This is an essential. In many stories of survival it is clear that those who expected to survive did. Even if you're not sure you can survive, encourage this attitude by acting as if you expect to. 4. Inspirational thoughts. This is how to have that positive attitude. An easy and enjoyable way to get this inspiration is to read true stories of wilderness survival. Some of the stories are about situations far worse than anything you are ever likely to encounter. Remembering them at the appropriate time is a sure way to see that you can survive. tell them to others too, if you are in a group. 5. Wilderness survival knowledge. You don't have to go to a survival training school to read and remember that you can safely eat all North American mammals, or that you can stuff your jacket with cattail fluff to create a winter coat. Any little bit helps, so learn a new trick or two each season, or take an edible plant guide on your next hike. 6. Reasons to survive. We all have reasons to want to live, but we need to remember to pull out those reasons when the time comes. Many people have attributed their survival to the constant thought of a loved one waiting for them, or something they want in the future. Maybe you've already done this mental preparation, but it can't hurt to look over the list above again. Is there anything you need to work on in your mental survival kit?

Florida camping

: Florida camping can be expensive. My wifa Ana and I paid $23 to camp in our conversion van one night. Of course, it was at a beautiful state park on the beach, and in the morning we saw a dolphin swimming near shore. Florida camping can be inexpensive too. While at the beach, we heard we could camp for free at the isolated campgrounds which dotted the Apalachicola National Forest. Naturally, our frugality sent us into alligator country. We camped two nights in the dark woods, next to the dark waters of a slow river. There was was an old guy who seemed to be living there, and a young couple with their two-year-old daughter. Lester was from England, Kari from Texas, and Indya was born in Guatamala. They met in India, of course. No crowds, and the price was right. March nights can be chilly here, so the six of us circled the fire at night, trading stories, and sometimes sneaking down to the water to look for the eyes of alligators. Unfortunately, we saw nothing, but we did hear splashes in the night. Lake Talquin The old guy told us that camping was also free at Williams Landing, on Lake Talquin, about twenty minutes west of Tallahassee. We moved up there, looking forward to the hot showers. Lester, Kari, and Indya followed the next day in "The Beast," which was an old RV that had carried them there from Texas. For eight days, we continued trading stories around the fire each night. We saw all kinds of wildlife. Packs of armadillos walked through camp, and giant grey herons fished offshore from the van. There were racoons, owls, squirrels, ducks, and turtles. Then there was the "monster." I was poking around near a corner of the lake, when I heard the splash. We had already seen two small alligators sunning themselves the day before, but this one had to be a giant. I returned with Ana the next morning, and again heard the splash, but it was under the water before we could see it. Every morning we visited the monster once the sun was high enough for him to come out and soak up the heat. We caught glimpses, enough to know he was at least ten feet long. Lester and Kari made a "Crocodile Hunter" movie of us stalking it. Soon it no longer panicked, but just slowly lowered itself into the water, as if getting ready to hunt us properly. After that we stopped trying to get so close to it. The five of us went to view alligators safely after that, from the tour boat at Wakulla Springs. I even got the chance to jump off of the big diving platform there. We eventually said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, but we hope it wasn't our last time in Florida, camping.

The canadian rockies trail of the grizzly

Over and over the huge grizzly bear stabs her powerful paw into the mountain river, fishing for her breakfast in the chilly, shallow water. A cool, crisp mountain breeze drifts through the valley; moist morning dew blankets the ground. The soothing sound of running water plays continuously as the sun scales the mountain peaks and illuminates the dawn sky.

There can be few places on earth with the raw, natural beauty displayed throughout the Rocky Mountains. Vast forests race up the huge grey, granite faces until the grade becomes too steep to support the great myriad of roots. Songs of birds emanate through the deep valley as they sing and dance amongst the tall trees. The still waters of the broad lake mirror the gathering, grey clouds forming in the sky. Rainfall looks likely.

Upstream from the lake, the grizzly perseveres in her attempts to catch salmon. Her young cub watches inquisitively; her only chance of survival is to learn the predatory skills of her mother.

A clap of thunder echoes around the valley; angry clouds combine to mask the sun. The light darkens and shadows disappear. Birds scatter from their perches in the lofty trees and circle overhead, assessing what the weather will do next.

The bright morning sunshine gives way to afternoon showers. Rain splashes upon the flowing stream, earning sanctuary for the swimming fish as the grizzly and her cub head for the shelter of the thick forest green.

Observing grizzly bears is one of the most exciting adventure holidays to be had. Vancouver Island Destinations offer spectacular springtime grizzly bear viewing holidays at Glendale Cove, Knight Inlet in British Columbia. Timed to coincide with the end of the grizzly’s hibernation period, watch the bears emerge from their winter slumber and tread wearily through the melting snow to feed amongst the river lowlands.

You can observe the bears begin to fatten themselves up, from the complete safety of a river boat. Binoculars are a must for those great close-ups, and an opportunity to witness the bear in predatory mode as they retune their fishing skills. Obviously binoculars help to keep a safe distance, but also allow you to watch the bears act completely naturally, undisturbed by human presence.

Both boat and land viewing tours are available up to the beginning of October. For more information visit the Vancouver Island Destinations web site.

Where you can buy your hiking gear and supplies from

Are you interested in going on a hiking trip? Whether you want your hiking trip to last one day or last as long as one week, you will need to bring along multiple pieces of hiking gear and other hiking supplies. If this is your first time buying gear and other supplies to take with you on a hiking trip, you may be unsure as to where you can make your purchase or purchases from.

Hiking gear is a phrase that is regularly used to describe pieces of equipment or items that are important to hiking. Hiking gear is regularly known to make hiking easier and safer. If you are in need of hiking gear, like hiking boots or a hiking stick, you may want to think about visiting one of your local sports stores. Sports stores are one of the best places to buy hiking gear from. Depending on the size of your local sports store, your local sports store may have a whole hiking department, which will likely be filled with multiple pieces of hiking gear.

In addition to visiting one of your local sports store, you should also be able to purchase hiking gear from one of your local department stores. Department stores are nice as they often carry a large selection of products. If you are looking to not only buy hiking gear, but other hiking supplies, like extra clothing or snacks for your trip, you may want to visit one of your local department stores. Department stores are not only known for their convenience, but they are also known for their affordable prices.

In addition to traditional department stores and sports stores, you may also want to examine online department stores and online sports stores. These online retailers often have a large selection of hiking gear for you to buy. In fact, the selection that you will find online will likely be larger than the selection in your local stores. Online shopping is nice, as it is convenient. For example, with online shopping, you can shop for hiking gear at three in the morning, while in your pajamas.

You may also be able to find a large selection of hiking gear, as well as other hiking supplies, like clothes, at specialty hiking stores. While some of these stores do exist locally, it is often a lot easier to find a specialty hiking stores online. Specialty hiking stores are a great way to find and buy hiking gear, as specialty hiking stores focus solely on hiking. Many specialty hiking stores also handpick their merchandise, ensuring that it is really top of the line.

Although most hikers prefer to have brand new hiking gear, you may also want to take the time to examine pre-owned hiking gear. Pre-owned hiking gear is great if this is your first time going hiking and if you are unsure as to whether or not it is something that you would like to do again. Pre-owned hiking gear is also ideal if you are looking to plan a hiking adventure while on a budget. If you would like to buy pre-owned hiking gear or at least examine some of the gear available for sale, you may want to check out online auction websites, thrift stores, and yard sales. Pre-owned hiking gear can sometimes be difficult to come across, but, when you do come across it, you will likely be more than pleased with the money that you can save.

Before you start buying your hiking gear, you may want to make a hiking gear checklist for yourself. A hiking gear checklist will help to ensure that you bring everything with you on your next hiking trip. When making your hiking gear checklist, you may want to walk yourself through your hiking trip and see what you will need. For instance, when you see yourself eating, what would you like to eat and so forth.

As outlined above, you have a number of different options, when it comes to buying hiking gear. As a reminder, for the largest selection of hiking gear, you may want to think about shopping online.

A backpack with wheels

: I wouldn't have thought a backpack with wheels would actually work for backpacking, but when I saw the web site for the "Wheelpacker"(TM), I was impressed. You wear a frame that attaches you to a wheeled pack. It can even go over logs and rocks. It started me thinking about what other backpacking innovations are just waiting to be marketed. Here are a few of the things I came up with. Steal these ideas, please. Inflatable Frame Backpack With frame-less backpacks we often put folded sleeping pads in the pack for cushioning against our backs and some support for the load. Why not just have the part of the pack that rests against the user's back inflate. With the same technology used for lightweight self-inflating sleeping bag pads, it would only add about six ounces. The backpack could then double as a foot-bag/pad for sleeping. Taking this idea further, I imagine a self-inflating backpack that folds out into a sleeping pad. The backpack "frame" would be the pad, in a "U" shape for some rigidity in the pack. Self-inflating sleeping bag pads are as light as 14 ounces now, and frame less packs 12 ounces, so the combination could probably be made to weigh just 20 ounces. Wax Paper Food Bags Put backpacking food in wax-paper packaging instead of plastic. The packages then double as emergency fire-starters, since wax paper will usually burn even when wet. Pillow/Waterbag When I need to carry more water I use the plastic bladders from boxed wine. They are light, strong, and I inflate the bag with air to use as a pillow too. To market a dual-purpose water container/pillow, it just needs a soft removable covering of some sort. Jacket Backpack Why not a frame-less backpack with a jacket that is a part of the pack? It can be folded out of the way, and the pack would have normal shoulder straps. When wearing the jacket, though, it would stabilize the pack, keep you warmer, and make it easy to push through heavy brush, because it wouldn't catch on things as easily. It is something like wearing a large jacket over a backpack, but with the weight-savings and stability that come from combining them. It could be called a "Jacket Pack-it." Backpacking Game Print a chess/checkers board on a jacket or backpack, and you have a carry-along game that weighs nothing extra. Great for spending hours in the tent waiting out the rain. If you don't carry the pieces, stones or pine cones could work as checkers. Backpacking gear ideas and innovations keep popping into my head as I write this. Most are based on the idea of "dual purpose" items. They may work, some may not, but it is an entertaining dose of inspiration from a backpack with wheels.

Camping 101 tips for outsmarting one of mother nature s nastiest aggravators

Whether it's summer camp or camping out-or both-that's on your agenda, here are some basic tips you can follow to outsmart poison ivy and oak to more fully enjoy your summertime adventures.

Preparation and protection are key. Poison ivy, oak and sumac produce the leading cause of allergic skin reactions in the United States every year. The good news is there are ways you can help protect yourself and your family from these noxious plants.

• Learn to recognize the plants and avoid them. There are several online resources that offer detailed descriptions of the plants.

• Whenever possible, wear long clothing-long pants and long sleeves-when you suspect you may come in contact with poison ivy plants. Poison ivy, oak and sumac are potent year-round and can remain toxic on clothes and other surfaces for up to five years.

• Use a pre-contact protective lotion, such as bьji Block™, to help protect against allergic reactions. The lotion forms an invisible layer on the skin that helps inhibit absorption of the plant oils that cause allergic reactions. bьji Block also features an SPF 20 UVA/UVB sunscreen. For added assurance, there is also bьji™ Wash, a gentle, exfoliating cleanser that removes the plant oils from the skin anytime after contact or symptoms begin to offer relief from itching and irritation.

Why i do not use 4 season tents

There is no need to get 4 season tents for gentle summer camping. Even if there is a heavy downpour, the use of sleeping pads combined with adequate planning should keep everything fairly dry.

The important thing is to not camp at the bottom of a hill, to make sure the rain fly is secure, and to take advantage of natural cover. But, a four season tent can be a nice thing to have for extreme conditions, and if you have the money to spend on one, it is a luxury that can really improve your camping experience.

Basically, the difference between 4 season tents and regular tents is that a 4 season tent is tighter, with heavier outer walls. When it is all zipped up, there is no space anywhere for the elements to get in. In addition, 4 season tents are often stabler so that they can resist extremely heavy storms if need be. This does not mean, however, that you cannot use 4 season tents in nicer weather. Many styles of 4 season tents come with the ability to unzip the outer fly so that you can keep cool on summer days, while still braving near-arctic temperatures in the winter.

You will find, however, that the more extreme the conditions for which it was designed, the more specialized a 4 season tent will be. For example, some true mountaineering 4 season tents are not things that you would like to take camping on a warm summer night. The ventilation panels are small, with the result that it will be stuffy and hot at night if you are camping during the summer with them. Additionally, they are made of heavier, stronger material, and as a result are an added burden for your normal camping trip.

And of course, good 4 season tents can be prohibitively expensive, running upwards of $500 dollars sometimes. Compare this to a 1-2 person summer tent that you might buy at your camping store. I got mine for $30 dollars and, although it provides little warmth, it works alright during the summer when combined with a decent sleeping bag. The truth of the matter is, it is important to think about what you will be doing before you go out and buy expensive mountaineering equipment and 4 season tents that you will not need. You must make sure that your equipment fits its purpose.

Hammocks- relax in a hammock bed chair or swing

This article deals with the most common use of the word hammock. A hammock is a sling for sleeping or resting in. Particularly in the southern US, a hammock can also mean a piece of thickly wooded land, usually covered with bushes and vines.

The hammock is a device used to sleep or rest in and consists of cloth or a network of twine or thin rope which is stretched between two firm points to create the perfect hammock.

The Garden Hammock was developed in South America or the Caribbean. Hammocks are standard items in almost all yards and homes in the Yucatan. Hammocks were said to have arrived in Yucatan from the Caribbean less than two centuries before the Spanish Conquest. Hammocks are made of various materials. The quality depends greatly on the thread and the number of threads used to create them. Hammocks are made in villages surrounding the capital city Merida and are sold throughout the world as well as locally. Hammocks hold such a strong place in the hearts of the Yucatecans, that even the most humble of homes have hammock hooks in the walls. Mayan hammocks are made on a loom and are hand woven by men, women and children.

Currently, there are a wide variety of hammocks available. There are hammocks that are designed specifically for backpacking and include mosquito netting along with pockets for nighttime storage. There are hammocks made out of thin and lightweight material which makes them ideal for taking on trips such as camping. Other hammocks include self-standing metal or wood structures that support the hammock. Although many people today purchase their hammock pre-made, it is also possible to make your own specialty hammock.

Hammocks have also traditionally been used by sailors on ships and by astronauts in space. During the Apollo program, the Lunar Module was equipped with hammocks for the commander and pilot to sleep between moonwalks. Hammocks are also handy on a ship. Since a hammock moves in concert with the motion of the ship, the sleeper is not at a risk of being thrown onto the floor. Some people worry that it is easy to fall out of a hammock during sleep, but this is rarely true. The sides of a traditional hammock wraps around the sleeper like a cocoon which makes a fall from the hammock virtually impossible.

Survival tips for backpackers

: Why survival tips for backpackers? Certainly backpacking may never become a matter of wilderness survival for you, especially if you are careful in your planning. Still, getting lost or twisting an ankle far from any road is always a possibility. In any case, learning a few new things from time to time is a great way to make your trips safer and more interesting. With that in mind, here are a few random survival tricks and skills based on my own experience. A Few Survival Tips To Remember You can make snow-block shelters without tools when the conditions are right. I have made trench-shelters of 2 x 3 foot snow-blocks with no tools. I stomped rectangles in the heavily-crusted snow and lifted up the resulting blocks. Stacking them on either side of a trench in the snow, and then across the top for a roof, I was able to make a shelter in twenty minutes. Syrup is made in late winter and early spring from both maple and birch trees, but it is too much effort to in a wilderness survival situation. However, you can get a couple hundred calories per day by just drinking maple or birch sap. Collecting it can be as easy as snapping off the ends of twigs and putting something underneath to catch the dripping sap. I've collected a quart per day for several days from one cut branch. How about a survival tip that makes for a delicious meal? Crayfish turn red just like a lobster when they are boiled, and you get a little chunk of meat from the tail of each. Lifting rocks to find them is much more efficient than baiting them. They swim backwards, so reach from behind them to catch them. Porcupine can be killed with a stick. They will not die easy, but they are slow, so you'll have plenty of time. Dress them from their underside, where there are no quills. They taste good when roasted over a fire. The mountain man tradition was to never kill them unless it was an emergency, because as long as they're around, there is easy food for survival situations. For quick ropes and lashings in the desert, peel yucca leaves into strips and braid them together, overlapping the ends. It took thirty minutes for me to make a rope like this that four of us couldn't break (two on each end). I have cooked in containers made of birch bark. There are two methods. One is to drop fire-heated rocks into the liquid to bring it to a boil. The other is to use the pot directly over the flame. If the flame doesn't go above the level of the liquid, the pot birch bark pot won't burn, because the heat is conducted away quickly by the liquid inside. Just stuffing your light jacket full of dried grass can effectively make it into a winter coat. It is even better (less itchy) if you have another jacket (like your raincoat), so you can put the grass or leaves between the two. Usually it will be more efficient to look for ways to modify what you already have than to try to make survival clothing. There are hundreds of little tricks that can make wilderness travel interesting and safer. Even if you aren't interested in practicing survival techniques, why not at least read a few survival tips now and then. Someday you may remember something that can save your life.

The australian outback the essence of australia

The Australian Outback is one of the last true frontiers of the modern world. It is a vast land, sometimes harsh and unforgiving, but always endowed with spectacular beauty, enormous variety and fascinating history. The sheer expanse of the outback is breathtaking. This vibrant red land is a mosaic of living aboriginal cultures, dreamtime legends, cool rock pools, shady gorges, red sand dunes, unique flora and fauna and dramatic rock formations.

The word 'outback' is not easily defined, but you know the Australian outback when you see it. The outback is mythical Australia, the essence of Australia, and in many ways the real Australia, as 75% of the Australian continent shares the outback's dry, desert characteristics. There is no such thing as a lifeless desert in Australia: as visitors soon learn, the outback is teeming with colour, life and diversity.

The term 'outback' refers to the remote and arid interior country of Australia, although it is often used today to refer loosely to any country outside of the main urban areas. The term is generally reserved for locations that are more remote than those areas described as being in 'the bush'. The outback is not officially recognised within any governmental frameworks or boundaries. Some local government entities use the term to enhance the tourist appeal for their region. Curiously, even tour operators in countries as far apart as the United States and South Africa are starting to use the term 'outback' to describe their products!

With its awesome open spaces, many consider the Northern Territory, and Central Australia in particular, to represent the true outback. While the Northern Territory is certainly Australia's premier outback tour destination, many other adjoining regions of Australia are also popular outback destinations: The Kimberley and the Pilbara in Western Australia; Mount Isa, Longreach, Boulia and Birdsville in Queensland; Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta, Maree, the Simpson Desert, Innamincka and the Birdsville Track in South Australia.

Organised package tours to the outback are popular, although many Australian and international tourists prefer to travel in their own vehicles. Such self-drive tours, particularly on the more remote outback dirt roads, require careful planning and an appropriate vehicle, usually four wheel drive. On remote outback tours, plenty of supplies and equipment including food, water and fuel should be carried. Some tours in more remote areas of the outback should not be undertaken with a single vehicle: a convoy approach (or tag-along tour) should be considered instead. Deaths from tourists becoming stranded on outback tours are infrequent but do occur, and poorly prepared tourists are regularly rescued when stranded by breakdowns or bad weather.

Among the most popular tour destinations in Central Australia, the true 'Red Centre' of the Australian outback, are Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), Kings Canyon (Watarrka), Alice Springs, Palm Valley and the West MacDonnell Ranges. Few places in Australia or the world can match Central Australia's rugged natural beauty, its diverse, unique flora and fauna, or the vitality of its living indigenous cultures.

Should you buy or rent your camping gear

Are you planning on taking a camping trip in the near future? If this is your first time going camping, you will need to get camping gear to take with you, as you may not already own it. While your first impulse may be to head on down to your local sports store, did you know that you have another option as well? You do. In addition to buying your own camping gear, you may also be able to rent it.

When it comes to determining whether you should buy your own camping gear or just rent the camping gear that you need, you may have a difficult time deciding what to do. If you are wondering what you should do, you will want to continue reading on. Below, the pros and cons of both buying your own camping gear and renting your camping gear are outlined.

As for buying your own camping gear, you will find that the biggest con or downside to doing so is the cost. Depending on what you need to buy, it can get pretty expensive to purchase your own camping gear. With that in mind though, there are a number of camping gear equipment pieces, like camping tents or sleeping bags, that can be purchased for affordable prices. If you are looking to camp on a budget, you can still buy your own camping gear, but you just need to know where to look.

Although there are a number of downsides, like the price, to buying your own camping gear, you will also find that there are a number of pros or plus sides to doing so as well. One of those plus sides is the fact that you will own the camping gear in question. This means that you can use it as little or as often as you would like. If you are planning to take a number of camping trips in the future, you will find that it is easier, as well as cheaper in the long run, to buy your own camping gear.

It is also important to mention the freedom that you have, when buying your own camping gear. When buying your own camping gear, you can buy basically whatever you want. For instance, if you would like a camping tent that is the color black, you are free to do so. When you buy your own camping gear, you have the ability to be picky if you want to be. With a large selection of camping gear pieces to choose from, from a number of different retailers, the decision as to what you want to buy is yours to make.

If you are unable to buy your own camping gear or if you would prefer not you, your other option is to rent your camping gear. When it comes to renting camping gear, you will also find a number of pros and cons. As for the cons of renting your camping gear, you may find that you are faced with a limited selection of camping gear pieces to choose from. Many camping gear rental stations only carry the basic items, like tents, hot plates, and coolers. While you may have some choices, you will mostly find that your selection is limited.

As for the pros or plus sides to renting your camping gear, instead of buying it, you will find that the cost is much more affordable. Despite being relatively affordable, different camping gear rental stations charge different rental fees. You will also find that camping gear can typically be rented for as little as one day or as long as a couple of weeks. Renting your camping gear is nice if this is your first time going camping and if you are unsure as to whether or not you would be interested in doing so again.

As you can see, there are a number of pros and cons to both buying your own camping gear and renting it. In addition to the two above mentioned options, you may also want to think about borrowing camping gear from someone that you know. You may even be able to do so free of charge.

How camping can be a unique romantic getaway

Are you interested in taking a romantic getaway with your romantic partner? If you are, have you already decided where you would like to go and what you would like to do? If you have yet to choose your romantic getaway destination and your romantic getaway activities, you may want to look into camping. Camping is popular, but it is still considered unique, at least for romantic getaways. With that in mind though, it is a romantic getaway that you and your partner would likely enjoy and possibly never forget.

Although it is nice to hear that camping in a unique, yet fun way to spend a romantic getaway, you may be wondering exactly why that is. If you are, you may be pleased to know that there are a number of different reasons as to why camping is perfect for romantic getaways, like your next one. Just a few of the many reasons why you may want to think about further examining camping are outlined below.

One of the many reasons why camping is perfect for romantic getaways is because of the nature. When camping, you are, literally, one with nature. You will find that the surroundings are absolutely beautiful. Most campgrounds have hiking trials, lakes, forests, and much more. You and your romantic partner should love waking up to the beautiful surroundings each and everyday of your romantic getaway.

Another one of the many reasons why camping may be perfect for your next romantic getaway is because you may be able to handpick your own camping spot. If you make your camping reservations in advance, you will find that many campground officials give you the opportunity to choose which camping spot you and your partner would like to have. If you prefer hiking, you may wish to be located close to a hiking trial. On the other hand, if you would like privacy on your romantic getaway, you may be able to choose a camping spot that is more secluded than the others.

Also, what is nice about camping is that you have a number of activities to choose from. When examining the activities, it is important to remember that camping is an activity all by itself. When camping, you can either choose to rent or buy an RV or you can choose to camp in a tent, both of which are pretty romantic. As for the other activities that you may be able to participate in, you may be able to go hiking, swimming, or boating. You may also enjoy just spending time with your partner around the campfire.

If you are interested in making your next romantic getaway a camping one, you will want to start planning your getaway well in advance. By taking the time to actually plan your next camping getaway, you can ensure that it is exactly how you wanted it to be. You may want to think about reviewing a number of campgrounds, to find the perfect one. Unless you are planning on making your camping getaway a surprise, you may want to think about planning your camping adventure with your romantic partner. This will help to ensure that both of you enjoy your next camping getaway.

Of course, your romantic getaway doesn't have to be a camping adventure, but you may at least want to think about it. For many, camping is a great, yet unique way to spend quality time with their romantic partners.

Riding the trains in italy

The first time I arrived in Italy by train it felt completely different to anywhere I’d travelled already. It was the summer of 2000 and I had been travelling for a nearly 2 weeks. I was more than relieved when the train pulled out of Nice on that bright August morning, what a misnomer, Nice was in my eyes not very nice at all. So when the train wound its way around the rocky hillsides, passing over the coastal rocks below I put it from my mind and concentrated on the electric blue waters of the med and the thought of my first genuine Italian cappuccino.

From my window seat I could see the vibrantly coloured flowers hanging from the trees clinging to the banks above the bays, bright flowers in pots along the platforms of the tiny train stations, and the heart warming sight of an Italian Nonna sweeping her porch out, her house sitting right next to the train tracks. As I was later to travel this track many times she became my ‘Italian Nonna’ and I looked out for her everytime I passed by.

Arriving in Ventimiglia, the first real stop over the border from France, (Monaco was also along the way) into Italy I was pleased to see a distinct difference between the Italian locals and the French ones I’d left behind. Admittedly there is a real sense of the Mediterranean life all the way along the Cote D’Azur, with fairly laid back individuals, all there to soak up sun and wine, but these locals appeared even more so. The Carabinieri on the platform as we pulled up were looking so relaxed as to almost appear asleep, even the sniffer dog didn’t look at all bothered that 15 sweaty backpackers had just arrived. Nobody moved, no passports were checked, just a few cheery ‘ciaos’ and a ‘benvenuti’.

After leaving our bags with the guide to mind we set off to explore for an hour before catching the next train. Having already spent the better half of the previous hour practising how to order a cappuccino in Italian I was eager to try it out. We found a kerbside cafй and sat down. To my amazement the waiter understood my request on the first go and duly brought me the coffee. I was still grinning when we got back on the train.

The journey to Cinque Terre takes you through countless tunnels, carved into the cliffs hanging out over jagged rocks and pebbly beaches. Each time we hit the darkness, the curtains flapping dementedly in the open windows, I could still see the blue water imprinted on the inside of my eyelids. Nowhere else have I experienced that effect.

The locals and us were all chatting amongst ourselves until one guy asks me where we are all going in Italian. I answer Rio Maggiore. Then he asks me where we are all from. I explain that I am a tour guide and my group are all from all over the world. He is going to Calabria to see his mother and he is from Milan. He works in a factory there making cars. Another lady opens her travelling cool box to share some iced coffee in tiny plastic espresso cups with the 2 Korean girls in my group, and another one pulls out some ‘dolce’, sweet pastries to share with the Canadian girls.

Of all my train journeys in Europe I have found the Italians to be the most generous to backpackers, in terms of communication and sharing the contents of their cooler bags. Especially on the train going to Calabria from the north.

I once spent the leg between Pisa and Rome stuck in a corridor with an old guy of 60, a phrase book and a lot of sign language. He was very keen to tell me his family history and was most impressed that a kiwi from ‘lontano’ was trying to speak Italian. He even gave me grammar lessons and corrected my pronunciation. That never happened on a French train.

More recently on the train to Florence from Pisa I sat next to a girl from Romania getting an entire itinerary of what to see and do in Florence from the guy opposite her in Italian. The interesting bit was she only spoke a few words but seemed to grasp most of what he was saying. It was great to see the passion for which he was talking about what was obviously his home town.

On one trip I managed to fulfil the desires of one rather shy Chinese girl who had a thing for men in uniform. She was trying to collect as many photos of them as possible from all over Europe. Some Italian Navy boys had got on at La Spezia, obviously from the Naval base there, heading to Rome along with a couple of Air Force boys. They were filling the corridor outside the dining car, laughing and yelling, all only too willing to pose for a couple of photos with my now tomato-red-in-the-face passenger. We thought we hit the jackpot when some army boys were spotted on the platform at Ostiense in Rome, but they were waiting for another train. She got a photo through the window instead.

The most frustrating time on the trains can be Florence S. M.N. The letters could easily stand for ‘so many new platforms’ instead of Santa Maria Novella as they have an annoying pastime of switching tracks on you. You have to listen to the announcements very carefully. They do them in both English and Italian but as soon as one train is late arriving they start shuffling the rest of the platforms like a deck of cards. With a group of 12 individuals one day we were waiting an extra 45 minutes for the train to Venice, supposedly arriving on track 11, then it was track 9, then it was back to track 11 at the very last minute. We broke the rules and ended up hurling packs across the train tracks onto the end carriage as the guard blew his whistle for the departure and we had some stragglers who hadn’t heard the change walking back from the sandwich bar. Everybody made it with a sprint finish.

On the contrary, in Venice the train guard was very accommodating when I had lost an American passenger between the baggage depot and the train in the short space of about 10 minutes. I explained she was late and he smiled, said ok, and waited an extra 5 minutes with me. Eventually he tapped his watch and we had to abandon her. This was the last train out of Italy to Austria that day so I wasn’t sure when I’d see her again. When I eventually did she had an awesome adventure to tell, but that’s entirely another story.

For point to point travel you can’t beat the Italian trains for good value, not just in the price because with a train ticket you get so much more than just a seat. Sometimes you don’t even always get a seat, especially if it’s in the middle of August, but you get a fantastic opportunity to experience the local culture that just can’t be had from a guide book or the inside of a bus.

Hiking clubs should you join one

Have you ever heard of a hiking club before? While hiking clubs do have different meanings, a hiking club is often used to describe a group of individuals who regularly enjoy hiking, often together in groups. If you are an avid hiker or if you just enjoy going hiking, you may want to think about joining a hiking club.

As it was previously mentioned, hiking clubs are often used to describe groups of individuals who have a love for hiking. The majority of the time, you will find that hiking club members hike together. This is ideal for a number of different reasons. For one, hiking with someone that loves hiking just as much as you do can be fun and exciting. It is also important to mention safety. When you hike with multiple individuals, especially experienced hikers, you are less likely to have an accident or find yourself in a dangerous situation.

In addition to going on traditional hikes with each other, there are many hiking club members who travel to hiking trails or hiking parks that are not considered local. Many times, these types of trips require camping or staying at a hotel. One of the many reasons why these types of long distance hiking trips are done by hiking clubs is because the group members can split the cost of doing so. What does this mean for you? It means that if you would like to take long distance hiking adventures, but you don't have any friends or family members who would like to go with you, you may want to think about joining a hiking club.

When examining all of the benefits of joining a hiking club, it is important to remember that not all hiking clubs are the same. There are some hiking clubs where members only meet up for hiking adventures, but then there are hiking clubs that do much more. For instance, there are hiking clubs that have monthly or even weekly meetings. These meetings are often used to plan hiking trips, discuss the latest in hiking gear trends, and so forth. There are also hiking clubs that use fundraisers, like car washes or chicken barbeques, to pay for their hiking adventures. In all honesty, you will find that the benefits you are presented with will all depend on the hiking club that you choose to join.

Speaking of choosing a hiking club, when it comes to choosing a hiking club, there are a number of important factors that you should take into consideration. For example, you will find that many hiking clubs charge their members small monthly or yearly fees. You will want to find a hiking club that is easy to afford. You may also want to take your schedule into consideration as well. Do you have time to attend all monthly or even the weekly meetings? If your hiking club has scheduled meetings, you will want to attend them, not just attend the scheduled hiking adventures. This will help you grow comfortable with those that you will hike with and visa versa.

If you would like to join a hiking club, you may want to first try and see if there are any local hiking clubs in your area. Depending on where you live or if there is a hiking trail or a hiking park nearby, there is a good chance that you may have a local hiking club or even a number of them to choose from. You can usually find information on local hiking clubs by using the internet or by asking those that you know for recommendations. If you are still coming up empty handed, you may want to think about asking the staff at a local hiking park if they know of any local hiking clubs.

As you can see, hiking clubs are fun ways to share your love for hiking with others who feel the same way about it as you do. Although there is a good chance that you will be able to find a hiking club to join, you can also always start your own, if you wish to do so.

The great salt lake bird watching festival in utah

Coming up on its eighth year, the Great Salt Lake Bird Watching Festival is good get away for birders. Of course, a chance to visit Salt Lake City isn’t so bad either.

Great Salt Lake Bird Watching Festival

The Great Salt Lake Bird Watching Festival is both a mouthful and a great event. Close to Salt Lake City, but actually centered in Farmington, Utah, the festival is put on by the Davis County Tourism agency and typically runs for five days in the last two weeks of May each year.

As with many birding festivals, the Great Salt Lake Bird Watching Festival offers workshops for kids and adults. Workshops include everything from building bird houses, birding for kids, and lectures on a variety of bird species with physical birds present.

Of course, field trips are the key to any bird watching festival and Great Salt Lake Bird Watching Festival doesn’t disappoint. Traditional sighting trips can be taken on land. The added bonus, however, is the fact birders can rent kayaks to float about the lake looking for new life birds.

Common Sightings

While each year will present variations, a birder can expect to see a variety of bird species at Great Salt Lake Bird Watching Festival. A variety of Heron, Pelican, Grebe and Cormorant species are plentiful. White-faced Ibis and Snowy Egrets are also often seen as are a variety of geese and ducks. A variety of falcons and hawks are surprisingly plentiful, but there is one prize sure to make it on you life list.

The rare American Bald Eagle lives in the area. Due to low population numbers, there is no guarantee you’ll see one, but at least four sightings occurred at the 2004 festival.

Whether you attend for the chance to see a bald eagle or the chance to meet other enthusiasts, the Great Salt Lake Bird Watching Festival is a good time.

The copper river delta shorebirds festival bird watching alaska style

Held in Cordova, Alaska, the Copper River Delta Shorebirds Festival is a bird watcher’s dream come true. Hundreds of thousands birds migrate to the delta for your sighting pleasure.

Copper River Delta Shorebirds Festival

Held every May, the Copper River Delta Shorebirds Festival is the place to be if you want to view shorebirds. Literally millions of birds migrate to the delta on the way to breeding grounds throughout the Arctic. The little town of Cordova knows a good thing when it sees it.

The Copper River Delta is essentially a refueling spot for the migrating birds. As you probably know, migrating birds will haul tail when the migration urge overcomes them. Many of these birds will fly for days on end until they must have food. In the grand plan, Mother Nature has arranged for the river delta to be the fast food stop for these birds.

Due to the frenetic pace undertaken by the migrating birds, food becomes a major issue. As they arrive at the Copper River Delta, they land and eat…and eat…and eat. It is the rare opportunity where you get to see so many birds grounded for such a long period of time. Put another way, it is a deluxe bird watching opportunity.

Birds

So, what can you expect to see on the delta? With so many birds, I’m not going to go into specifics other than to say you can see a wide variety of Loons, Grebes, Herons, Swallows, Yellowlegs, Tattlers, Sandpipers, Swans, Chickadees, Wrens, Ducks, Thrushes, Magpies, Warblers, Alcids, Finches, Jaegers and Turns to mention only a few. Put another way, you won’t run out of things to see.

Getting There

Getting to Cordova isn’t the easiest of things to do. You’ll have to fly in from Anchorage, Juneau or Seattle. Alternatively, you can hop on one of the Alaskan ferries, but need to look into the specific mechanics involved.

It is the rare day indeed when a birder can view millions of birds in their natural habitat. The Copper River Delta Shorebirds Festival offers you that day every year.

Keith james president jack rouse associates on doing business in the emerging markets

Jack Rouse Associates (JRA) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The group of designers, writers, producers and project managers based in Cincinnati, Ohio, named by the Wall Street Journal as "one of the world's more prominent design firms", promotes its ability to conceive, visualise and realise exceptional experiences for museums, corporations and entertainment clients worldwide.

As part of this global ambition, JRA is proactively developing business in the emerging markets and has been involved with a number of recent high profile projects:

• HarborLand, Ningbo, China - This new theme park, part of an urban development in Ningbo, China, opened in Feb 2006 with a master plan and design created by JRA. As a first step in the master planning and design process, JRA created a fairy tale story around which the park is being developed. The story is inspired by the Phoenix, the mythological firebird and a symbol of happiness in Chinese culture.

• Guangdong Science Center, Guangzhou, China - JRA provided overall exhibit design for the children's portion of this 450,000 sq ft science centre, set up in Guangzhou in 2007.

• Restless Planet, Dubailand, Dubai, UAE - Projected to open in 2008, Restless Planet will blend entertainment and natural history experiences in a first-of-its-kind destination. JRA is currently managing the overall design and production of Restless Planet, including development and oversight of all attractions and media. It is being linked with the Mall of Arabia, which is currently the largest mall under construction in the world. Working with London's Natural History Museum, and other experts, the team is developing a synergy of architecture and experiences that take guests on "the world's ultimate theme ride back into the mists of time," enabling them to explore Earth as it was millions of years ago. From rides that plunge visitors into the world of giant sauropods and terrifying raptors to special zones exploring the prehistoric past and links to the latest discoveries, Restless Planet will combine breathtaking theme park experiences, enhanced by dramatic lighting and audiovisual effects, with cutting-edge educational content.

• Al Kaheel Park, Dubai, UAE - When completed, Al Kaheel Park will become the most comprehensive equine tourist attraction ever built. It will extend over almost 9.1 million square feet of preserved desert landscape. The mixed-use development will have real estate and commercial components. JRA has been hired as part of the consultant team and will provide attraction planning and design for the complex. Al Kaheel will be an educational theme park and working horse farm dedicated to man's relationship with the horse.

• Ferrari Theme Park, Abu Dhabi, UAE - Built around the legendary Italian company, the theme park will consist of family rides, driving school and virtual simulations as well as retail merchandising. JRA is providing design and co-ordination.

Keith James, President, JRA, has been at the center of cutting-edge projects within the themed entertainment industry for more than 30 years and has been instrumental in opening new markets in India, the Pacific Rim and Eastern Europe for JRA. Blooloop talked to him about JRA's approach to developing business in the emerging markets and asked him to reflect on JRA's 20 years in the business:

Which markets are you targeting?

"Right now we are focusing on museums, theme parks and attractions, halls of fame, corporate visitor centres and sports venue interactive zones. Geographically we are looking to the Middle East, China, Russia and when the occasion arises, the USA. We simply go where the work is."

How are you developing your business?

"We have an ongoing marketing effort that includes tradeshows, advertising, PR the Web site, referrals and our relationship with current and past clients but more importantly our closely-knit industry results in numerous referrals from friends and other companies.

We are always sensitive to the culture of the countries we pursue. We meet clients, endeavour to understand their needs and satisfy those needs. As a company we are client sensitive instead of JRA sensitive. Luckily the approach works both ways for the USA and foreign countries."

Do you structure work proposals differently from country to country?

"Each proposal depends upon the client needs rather than what country it is from. Again, the differences between HarborLand and Restless Planet are determined by the client's relationship with qualified local buyers and requirements of the project itself. Either way, we always work closely with people the client assigns to us."

How do emerging markets' requirements differ from the North America?

"We look closely at the culture and maintain a sensitivity to the culture that's local to the project. For example, in some countries there's less emphasis on thrill rides than in the US. Typically there is an independent market analysis that helps us determine the program mix. Food and menus are always different."

Are there any lessons you've learned from working in these new markets? Any surprises?

"One thing learned is that universally people want to have a good time in a clean and safe environment. With new markets we recognize it's important to understand the culture of the region socially and business wise. We always develop a product jointly with the client. Collaboration is a MUST.

Speed in the Middle East to establish business is a challenge more than a surprise. Some areas of the world are trying to skip generations and land squarely in the 21st Century and when this happens, you have to be careful not to lose the established foundation of experience when you make that leap. After all, these are businesses that need to be successful."

What have been the key changes in the Industry over the last 20 years? How JRA has responded and what changes do you foresee in the future?

"Technology has grown in leaps and bounds. However, one on one experiences in our projects are still important and we have to make sure people have a personal relationship with the message. As our CEO, Jack, once said, "the first interactive was two people talking," and we have to make sure we don't lose sight of that in our technology. The blending of our industries of sports, museums, theme parks and corporate visitor centres are a notable change. 20 years ago museums would not have talked to theme park people and now those lines between them have gone away. Now they are able to learn from each other and explore areas they might not have looked at before from the audience perspective.

We always emphasise the people in business and the audience itself."

Top tips to really experience africa

Overlanding shortly defined involves travelling in small groups and by a specific route to remote territories – places that are off the beaten track. This is what makes these trips al that exciting, as not many people have the opportunity to visit such areas. These trips are definitely not ordinary. They are for the fun loving, excited and adventurous at heart.

Tours can last anything between 4 days to 6 months and usually includes visiting more than one country. Group sizes are small varying from 10 to 25.

Overlanding is a very budget style of travel and accommodation, transport, National Park entry fees and most meals are included in prices. The idea behind an overlanding trip is to escape the busy City life and just become part of nature.

These trips are nothing boring; as it includes all levels of adventurous activities and is suitable for all persons with average to good fitness and good health. Tours are carefully planned so that each tour has its own optional activities. These activities can range anything from extreme adventure – like bungee jumping – to more fun adventure activities like elephant back safaris, scuba diving, white water rafting, fishing, horse riding …and the list just continues.

The great thing about optional activities is that you do not have to pay for anything you cannot afford or wouldn’t like to do.

You will however be expected to participate in limited amount of general duties on tour like washing your dishes, keeping the vehicle clean, setting up your camp and getting all muddy should the truck get stuck. This ensures that everything on tour runs as smoothly as possible and mostly so that there’s not a dull moment. All the more excitement!

Overlanding vehicles are generally specially designed trucks suited for the roads travelled on and can range anything from “rough-it overlanding” trucks to more luxury spacious trucks with comfortable seats.

The accommodation on tour can range anything from plain camping to budget National Park style bungalows or safari tents.

Local payments may be levied from tour participants in certain African countries. This is a very common on overlanding tours. Local Payments are essential in order to transfer the foreign currencies of the countries visited in order to operate the tours.

Your tour itinerary should state if a local payment will be necessary for the countries you will visit.

A good tip is to always carry US$ cash on you when on tour as US dollars are widely accepted throughout Africa.

Air fares to Africa are usually excluded in the tour price, but overlanding companies or booking agents are mostly able to arrange it on your behalf.

Travel insurance is very important and compulsory on overlanding trips. You must ensure that you take out adequate travel insurance to cover the type of activities you may be interested in. Certain overlanding booking agents or companies will even be able to arrange travel insurance for you.

What makes an overlanding tour so unique is that you meet great people, you experience so much about other cultures, and because you travel in a group, you have experienced guides by your side who will be able to explain all the inns and outs on tour – wherever you are off to.

So, my advice to you, if you are looking for an experience of a lifetime, pack your bag of enthusiasm, excitement and sense of humour and you are ready to head off to an African overlanding adventure of a lifetime.

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